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Monday, October 11, 2010


Author: Kresley Cole
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings:  Violence4, Sensuality—4-5, Humor—1-3
Publisher and Titles: Pocket 
  1    The Warlord Wants Forever (novella introducing the series, 11/2011)(also included in Playing Easy to Get anthology, 2006)(new revision in Blood Red Kiss anthology, 2016)(Click HERE to read my review of this story.)
  2    A Hunger Like No Other (Pocket Books, 3/2006)
  3    No Rest for the Wicked (Pocket Books, 10/2006)
  4    Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night (Pocket Books, 9/2007)
  5    Dark Deeds at Night's Edge (Pocket Books, 4/2008)
  6    Dark Desires after Dusk (Pocket Books, 5/2008)
  7    Kiss of a Demon King (Pocket Books, 1/2009)
  8   "Untouchable" (novella in Deep Kiss of WinterPocket Books, 10/2009)
  9    Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Pocket Books, 2/2010) 
10    Demon from the Dark (Pocket Books, 8/2010)
11    Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Pocket Books, 2/2011)
12    Lothaire (Gallery Books, Pocket Books, 1/2012)
13    Shadow's Claim (Pocket Books, 11/2012)
14    Macrieve (Gallery Books, 7/2013)
15    Dark Skye (Gallery Books, 8/2014)
16    Sweet Ruin (Gallery Books, 12/2015)
17    Shadow's Seduction (novellaValkyrie Press, 2/2017)
18    Wicked Abyss (Gallery Books, 4/2017)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 8/7/17 to include a review of Wicked Abyss, the 18th novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building, brief summaries of novels 9-11, and full reviews of the remaining novels (except for #17—publisher's blurb only). 

                          NOVEL 18:  Wicked Abyss                          

The terrifying king of hell...
As a boy, Abyssian "Sian" Infernas had his heart shattered by a treacherous fey beauty who died before he could exact vengeance. Millennia later, a curse has transformed him into a demonic monsterjust as she's been reincarnated. Sian captures the delicate but bold female, forcing her back to hell. 

Meets his match.
Princess Calliope "Lila" Barbot's people have hated and feared Abyssian and his alliance of monsters for eons. When the beastly demon imprisons her in his mystical castle, vowing revenge for betrayals she can't remember, Lila makes her own vow: to bring down the wicked beast for good. 

Can two adversaries share one happily-ever-after?
As Calliope turns hell inside out, the all-powerful Sian finds himself defenseless against his feelings for her. In turn, Lila reluctantly responds to the beast's cleverness and gruff vulnerability. But when truths from a far distant past are revealed, can their tenuous bond withstand ages of deceit, a curse, and a looming supernatural war?

     I can sum up this novel in just seven words: Beauty and the Beast...with a twist. The twist is that the Beauty in this fairy tale comes to love her hero's bestial form more than his human form.

     As the novel begins, Lila is working as a princess at Disneyland when two visitors pay her a surprise visit: King Saetth, her fey fiancé who banished her to the mortal world from her home realm of Sylvan after her parents plotted his murder, and the infamous troublemaker, Nïx, the eccentric, all-knowing soothsayer. Saetth will allow Lila to return home after 13 years of exile if she agrees to be kidnapped and sent to Pandemonia (aka Hell) where she will then spy on King Abyssian. Abyssian is a member of the villainous Møriør, which I describe at some length in my review of Sweet Ruin. In that book, Sian's brother was the king and he was just a prince, but his brother has died, so Sian has ascended to the throne. Nïx and her allies know that the Møriør plans to attack Sylvan and—eventually—the Earth, so they need Lila to get to work on seducing Sian so that she can ferret out the Møriør's plans for upcoming battles and get details about the alliance and its leader, Orion. 

     After Saetth and Nïx explain the plan and promise to extract Lila as soon as she gets enough information, Nïx explains that Lila has three advantages over Abyssian: "You can read and write his language...You developed mental blocks against mind reading..."—and then she explodes a huge bombshell that shocks Lila to her core—"And you are his mate." Lila is stunned. Both Saetth and Nïx immediately promise Lila that being the demon's mate is a good thing because Abyssian would never harm his mate. Lila cannot believe that her fiancé doesn't mind "another male's hands all over me...A Møriør touching your future queen," but Saetth responds calmly that "this is the only logical course" and declares that he's fine with her mission. At that point, the irrepressible Nïx pipes up to say, "You don't have to go all the way...Just a great deal of the way." Lila remains shocked and troubled by the fact that Saetth is O.K. with her seducing Absynnian, and she is terrified of what could happen to her in Pandemonia at the hands of its demon king. On the other hand, she is so desperate to get back to Sylvan and become its queen that finallywith much trepidation—she agrees to their plan. Although Lila didn't turn against Saetth when he banished her from Sylvan, this scene should make her realize what a total jerk he is.

     Meanwhile in Pandemonia, Abyssian (aka Sian) is getting used to his new royal powers, which are considerable. He is also keeping himself in a constant state of rage by immersing himself in angst-filled memories of the horrific way his mate treated him ten thousand years ago when she rejected, humiliated, and betrayed him and then married another man and died in childbirth soon thereafter. Sian constantly replays these scenes from his long-ago past, and now that he has heard that his mate has been reincarnated, he describes to his dragon buddy, Uthyr, exactly how he is going to punish her. Oops! It seems that Nïx "forgot" to mention that whole reincarnation catastrophe to Lila.

      The entire book focuses on Sian and Lila, from Sian's initial violence towards her all the way through to the inevitable HEA that you know is coming. In fact, throughout most of the story, Sian and Lila are the only characters, with occasional visits from Uthyr. Sian is a rage-filled demon who sees Lila as the same woman who rejected and betrayed him centuries ago. Lila is a self-sufficient young woman whose motto is FITFO: "Figure it the f--- out." 

     A slender story line near the end adds a few more characters and some non-relationship-related suspense, but really this is all about the two lead characters and the flip-flops of love/hate, trust/distrust, and rage/joy emotions that define their relationship. Get ready for a LOT of angst-filled interior monologues and snarky dialogue (plus an abundance of graphically portrayed erotic sex).

     During the first half of the book, Sian keeps Lila locked up in a spider-infested, bare, stone cell overlooking a river of lava. At first, he gives her impossible tasks to complete and threatens her with torture and/or death, but soon she shows her feisty side (and if you didn't expect her to be feisty, you haven't read many paranormal romances!) and that really turns Sian on. Lila explains her FITFO motto to him and promises to escape from her prison and then to outthink him in every situation—a perfect challenge for the rage-filled demon king. She starts by making friends with two of the giant spiders that Sian has placed around her cage to scare her. 

     About halfway into the book, lustful feelings begin to develop between the two of them, and from that point on, the sensuality level rises steadily and quickly up to a burning hot peak. When the moment of consummation finally arrives, Sian muses that he has "waited ten thousand two hundred and thirty-four years, three months, and seventeen days for his female to return to him." He tells her, "You were worth the wait." You would think that their relationship would proceed smoothly after their smoking hot "wedding night," but you would be very wrong.

     Unfortunately, both are still keeping secrets from one another, and Sian still can't let go of his ten thousand years of rage: As the dominant demon in Pandemonia, Sian's demonish appearance and barely controlled emotions are steadily growing more and more extreme. The only way he can stop this process is to find the Hellfire that is hidden somewhere within Pandemonia, but Sian has searched everywhere and has given up on finding it. He knows that he will continue to grow more and more bestial in appearance and more and more irrational in his behavior and emotions, but he does not mention this major detail to Lila because he fears that she will be disgusted and frightened and turn away from him. Meanwhile, Lila is keeping her big secret that she is a spy for Sian's enemies. Even after their personal relationship improves, she knows that he will never believe that she has changed her mind about him because he still believes that she has the potential to be exactly like Karinna (the Fey princess who betrayed him—the one from whom Lila has reincarnated). Even near the end of the book after the two have bared their souls to one another and have seemingly come to terms with their differences, Sian just can't let go of that long-ago betrayal and the connection between Karinna and Lila.

     The hard-cover version of this book is 383 pages long—almost too many pages to focus on one couple's love story without any other interceding action. I have read so many paranormal romances over the years that I just skimmed through the pages of passionately erotic love scenes (which tend to blur together). But then there were the constant trust/distrust tricks that Sian and Lila kept playing on one another, which really did get old after awhile. The big finale, though, was action-filled, exciting, and unpredictable in its own way. Even though I knew how it had to end, I was unable to figure out just how Cole was going to resolve the three-way conflict among Lila, Sian, and Saetth—so congratulations to the author on a terrific, fast-paced ending.

     This series is definitely nearing its end because the Accession is imminent. Here is Cole's description of the Accession as excerpted from "The Living Book of Lore" as "a time when all immortal beings in the Lore must fight and destroy each other." Here are three important facts about the Accession:
> It is "a kind of mystical checks-and-balances system for an ever-growing population of immortals."
There are "three major alliances: the Pravus League, the Vertas Rule  and the Møriør." (The Pravus League comprises vampires, some demons, wendigos, and other evil supernaturals. The Vertas Rule comprises Valkyrie, Wiccae, Fae, and Lykae and is led by Nïx. The Møriør comprises five primordial entitiesa demon, a witch, a vampire, and a werewolf—and is led by Orion, a being of unknown descent who has the ability to alter his appearance and his scent.) I kept wondering whether the mysterious fawn that keeps appearing out of nowhere to lead Lila out of danger and to provide her with assistance in Pandemonia could actually be Orion.
> It "occurs every five hundred years. Or right now..."
     If you are a series fan, you won't want to miss this novel because it sets up an important alliance that will affect the Accession. To read or listen to an excerpt from Wicked Abyss, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.

     The books revolve around a group of Valkyries, a coven of Witches, a clan of Lykae (shifters), and a bevy of other supernatural characters, including vampires, demons, sorcerers, phantoms, succubi, and more. In this World, supernaturals are all part of the Lore, and they are divided into two groups: the Vertas (Valkyrie, Wiccae, Fae, and Lykae) and the Pravus (vampires, some demons, wendigos, and other evil supernaturals) and the two groups are constantly at war with one another. Each member of the Lore is immortal and self-healing and can be killed only by mystical fire or beheading. Their eyes change color under intense emotion. Events in this World are being driven by the Accession, a fate-driven series of conflicts that involves all of the supernaturals in one way or another. 

     Although various groups within the Lore fight each other, they have a common human enemy: the Order. This group, which hides behind science, captures supernaturals, imprisons them, and experiments on them in a variety of horrific ways, including vivisection. The Order's ultimate goal is to rid the world of all supernatural beings. The leader of the Order is Commander Preston Webb. 

     Each book tells the story of one immortal couple (mostly Vertas) as they make every attempt to avoid falling in love (but do anyway), try very hard to avoid sex (but fail), and eventually give in to the fact that they are really and truly soul mates. Sexual tension runs rampant. Plots involve everything from an evil demon enslavement to a supernatural treasure hunt to the search for a magic sword to a mad-scientist group experimenting on supernaturals. Appearing in all of the books is the eccentric soothsayer, Phenïx (aka Nïx), the oldest and most powerful of the Valkyries. She adds to the humor and confusion with her loopy, metaphorical predictions of future events. 

     Be aware that events in one book will overlap with events in another book, sometimes earlier in time and sometimes at the same time. In particular, you will get a glimpse of couples in the early stages of relationships in early books, but you won't get their full stories until later books. Cole is telling a huge story—a saga, really—and it's all happening at once. Just go with the flow and you won't get lost.

     The series has won two RITA awards for best paranormal romance: A Hunger Like No Other in 2007 and Kiss of a Demon King in 2010.

     On Cole's web site, she presents a list of the major characters in the series and a glossary of terms. Cole also has an FAQ page for the series.

Here are the names and species of the happy couples in each book:
>  The Warlord Wants Forever: Nikolai Wroth (Forbearer Vamp) & Myst the Coveted (Valkyrie)
>  A Hunger Like No Other: Lachlain MacRieve (lykae) & Emmaline Troy (half Valkyrie/half Vamp)
>  No Rest for the Wicked: Sebastian Wroth (Forbearer Vamp) & Kaderin the Cold Hearted (Valkyrie)
>  Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night: Bowen MacRieve (Lykae) & Mariketa the Awaited (Valkyrie)
>  Dark Deeds at Night's Edge: Conrad Wroth (Forbearer Vamp) & Neomi Laress (Phantom)
>  Dark Desires After Dusk: Cade (Rage Demon) & Holly Ashwin (halfling raised as human)
>  Kiss of a Demon King: Rydstrom Woede (Rage Demon) & Sabine, Queen of Illusions (Sorceress)
>  "Untouchable": Murdoch Wroth (Forbearer Vamp) & (Daniela (Danji) the Ice Maiden (Valkyrie, part Fey)
>  Pleasure of a Dark Prince: Garreth MacRieve (Lykae prince) & Lucia the Huntress (Valkyrie)
>  Demon from the Dark: Malkolm Slaine (Demon/Vampire) & Carrow Graie (Witch)
>  Dreams of a Dark Warrior: Aidan the Fierce, aka Declan Chase (Berserker) & Regin the Radiant (Valkyrie)
>  Lothaire: Lothaire (Vamp) & Elizabeth Peirce (human) 
>  Shadow's Claim: Trehan Daciano (Prince of Shadows) & Princess Bettina of Abaddon (half-Sorceress/half-Demon
>  MacGrieve: Uileam (Will) MacRieve (Lykae) & Chloe Todd (halfling Succubus) 
>  Dark Skye: Thronos, Prince of Skye Hall (Vrekener—Demon Angel) & Melanthe (Lanthe), Queen of Persuasion (Sorceress)
>  Sweet Ruin: Rune Darklight (Dark Fey/Demon halfling) & Josephine Doe (Phantom/Vampire hybrid)
>  Shadow's Seduction: Prince Mirceo Daciano (Vamp) & Caspian the Tracker (Demon) 
>  Wicked Abyss: Abyssian "Sian" Infernas (Demon King of Pandemonia and All Hells) & Princess Calliope "Lila" Barbot (Princess of the Sylvan Fey Court)

                       SUMMARIES OF NOVELS 9 - 11                        
    Dreams of a Dark Warrior is really the other half of the story told in Demon from the Dark. Both books revolve around events in an experimental laboratory on a Pacific island. Pleasure of a Dark Prince tells the story of what is happening to Lucia and Garreth at the same time that the events in Dreams of a Dark Warrior and Demon from the Dark are occurring elsewhere. 

  NOVEL 9: Pleasure of a Dark Prince   tells the story of Lucia (Valkyrie) and Garreth (Lykae) as they attempt to defeat the evil Cruach, the ancient horned god of human sacrifices and cannibalism, who tricked Lucia into leaving Valhalla. Lucia has defeated Cruach several times, but every 500 years during the Accession, he attempts to escape. Garreth has been chasing after Lucia for years, sure that she is his destined mate, but Lucia believes that if she mates with anyone she will lose her cherished skills as an archer. The action takes place at the mouth of the Amazon River, where the couple works together to defeat Cruach one last time. To read or listen to an excerpt from Pleasures of a Dark Prince, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.

  NOVEL 10: Demon from the Dark   tells the story of party-girl Carrow Graie (warrior witch) and tormented hero Malkom Slaine (vampire demon, aka venom), and it fits right in with the general structure of the series. This hero and heroine must escape from imprisonment by evil mortal experimenters who want to know the source of their powers. To read or listen to an excerpt from Demon from the Dark, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.

 NOVEL 11: Dreams of a Dark Warrior   tells the story of Regin the Radiant (fun-loving Valkyrie) and her centuries-old romance with Aidan the Fierce (mortal Berserker warrior). The original Aidan died a thousand years ago, immediately after he and Regin had sex for the very first time. Aiden has been reincarnated four times since then, and during each reincarnation he and Regin always find each other with the exact same results: immediate death for Aiden. Now, the fifth "Aiden" has appeared in the form of Declan Chase, the Magister of an experimental facility run by the Order, a group of supernatural-hating humans. 

     When he was seventeen, Declan was tortured by some horrible supernaturals who also killed his parents, so now his goal in life is to discover the weaknesses of supernaturals and kill as many as he can. In one of his sweeps through New Orleans, Declan captures Regin and immediately begins to realize that his response to her is different than it has been with other captives. Nevertheless, he tortures her horribly (the violence rating of this book is 5). Events at the lab have the same sequence as in the previous book, which followed Malkolm and Carrow as they escaped. Dreams of a Dark Warrior tells Regin's story as she tries to escape and Declan's story as he tries to come to terms with the fact that he may actually be a supernatural—one of the creatures he hates most in the world. The ending has a few twists, so don't think that you have it figured out until almost the last page. 
To read or listen to an excerpt from Dreams of a Dark Warrior, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.

                         NOVEL 12:  Lothaire                         

     Lothaire, one of darkest villains of the series, is a Fallen vampire, having taken the blood of both mortals and immortals for centuries. His strategy has been to manipulate an immortal into an impossible position and then appear miraculously to save the day—but only if the immortal will agree to owe Lothaire a favor, any favor that he wants, in exchange for his help. Lothaire keeps a ledger containing the names of all who owe him these debts. At the root of Lothaire's hard-hearted approach to existence is his tragic personal history. Since he was a child, he has lived only for revenge against those who wronged him and his mother centuries ago. Lothaire was a major player in the escape from the island that was described in the previous books. 

     The book's heroine is Elizabeth (Ellie) Pearce, who grew up in poverty in the Appalachian mountains, where her male relatives all worked in the coal mines. When the spirit of an evil goddess (Saroya) possesses her, she becomes an unwilling and unknowing murderess and winds up on death row. Lothaire rescues Ellie moments before her execution, believing that the goddess within her is his intended vampire Bride (aka soul mate). As the story plays out, Lothaire treats Ellie horribly, with constant emotional and physical abuse. Lothaire and Saroya plan to destroy Ellie's soul so that Saroya will have complete control over Ellie's body—and they aren't shy about reminding Ellie of this. Then they will carry out Lothaire's plans for revenge and eventually become the king and queen of two realms. Needless to say, those plans don't exactly play out as planned. 

     Of all the books in the series, this is my least favorite. Lothaire is a cruel, calculating, villainous character who shows absolutely no redeeming qualities until the final pages. His treatment of Ellie is vile and despicable, and her love for him is absolutely incomprehensible. He savagely belittles her and her Appalachian roots, threatens to kill her family members, promises to destroy her soul, hurts her during sexual acts, controls every decision about her life, and never apologizes for any of this until almost the last page of the book. Ellie responds at first with rage, but soon she becomes sexually attracted to Lothaire and then falls totally in love with him. She is portrayed as an intelligent woman, but her behavior belies that. The plot line is as action filled as the other books in the series, but this central relationship held so many horrors that I didn't enjoy reading the book. 
To read or listen to an excerpt from Lothaire, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.

     Except for Lothaire, I love this series. It has all of the elements that I look for in a paranormal romance: intricate and compelling plots, a cohesive series story arc, and (usually) a twist at the end. And Nïx is one of my favorite paranormal characters ever. I can't wait to read her story.

                    NOVEL 13: Shadow's Claim                    

This one somehow slipped by me, so I'm including the publisher's blurb, but no review. To read or listen to an excerpt from Shadow's Claim, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on either the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.


Shadow’s Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament—to the death. 

HE WON’T BE DENIED: Trehan Daciano, known as the Prince of Shadows, has spent his life serving his people—striking in the night, quietly executing any threat to their realm. The coldly disciplined swordsman has never desired anything for himself—until he beholds Bettina, the sheltered ward of two of the Lore’s most fearsome villains. 

SHE’S BOUND TO ANOTHER: Desperate to earn her guardians’ approval after a life-shattering mistake, young Bettina has no choice but to marry whichever suitor prevails—even though she’s lost her heart to another. Yet one lethal competitor, a mysterious cloaked swordsman, invades her dreams, tempting her with forbidden pleasure.

A BATTLE FOR HER BODY AND SOUL: Even if Trehan can survive the punishing contests to claim her as his wife, the true battle for Bettina’s heart is yet to come. And unleashing a millennium’s worth of savage need will either frighten his Bride away—or stoke Bettina’s own desires to a fever pitch.

                          NOVEL 14:  MacRieve                          
     The hero of this book is Uileam (Will) MacRieve, who shares leadership of the Lykae with his twin brother, Munro. MacRieve has had the requisite horrible childhood of all paranormal romance heroes. He was horribly abused by a supernatural villainess, an experience that indirectly resulted in the deaths of both his parents. MacRieve has suffered the guilt and shame of his horrific childhood experiences throughout the nine centuries of his life. During all that time, he has never been able to have a meaningful relationship with a woman, and he has always had a difficult time controlling his beast. We met MacRieve in an earlier book when he helped lead the escape from the Order's experimental laboratory on the island, where he was tortured horribly and then narrowly escaped being killed by a starving pack of succubi. Although several months have passed since his escape from the Order's prison laboratory, MacRieve still suffers nightmares and flashbacks and believes that he will never be normal again. As the book opens, MacRieve's driving force is revenge. He, like most of the rest of the supernatural world, wants to track down Commander Preston Webb, the leader of the Order, and kill him.

     When MacRieve hears that some enterprising witches have captured Chloe Todd, Webb's human daughter, and they plan to sell her to the highest bidder. Soon after MacRieve and Munro arrive at the auction, MacRieve scents Chloe and realizes immediately that she is his true mate. He and Munro rescue her from the mob and carry her off to their huge, well-secured compound. 

     Chloe Todd is not your typical 20-something woman. She is a professional soccer playerthe star of her team and a ferocious competitor. Chloe has no idea that her father is involved in the Order. She believes that her dad's name is Dustin Todd and that he is a businessman who travels constantly on business. Just before Dad leaves on yet another business trip, Chloe tells him that she has been feeling strange lately. Oddly, her father just hands her a book about the Lore and goes off to catch his planenever to return home. Preston Webb is all too aware that the supernaturals are looking for him, and he has gone into hiding. He also now realizes that his daughter isn't as human as he had hoped she was.

     At first, Chloe handles her new life with MacRieve and the Lykae fairly well, but then she and MacRieve have an extremely passionate love-making session that acts as a trigger to change her into the supernatural being that has been lying dormant within her body. Unfortunately, the type of being that she becomes is the one that MacRieve despises more than anything in the world. From that point on, their relationship goes downhill fast, and MacRieve transforms from a charming, humorous guy to a vicious, raging beast. The scenes that follow are filled with so much bitterness and cruelty that, frankly, they're sometimes hard to read. What makes this book better than the previous one, though, is that Chloe is no shrinking violet. When MacRieve rages against her, she rages right backevery single time. Her soccer teammates didn't nickname her T-Rex for nothing!

     The theme of the book is fate: how disparate events—both good and bad—must occur in order for other events to happen. At one point, MacRieve realizes that "Without his torment, there would be no Chloe. Fate is our faith." (p. 319) As you can imagine, the soothsayer, Nïx, plays a major role in the fates that are involved in MacRieve and Chloe's story. Other than the commotion at the auction at the beginning of the book, when MacRieve rescues Chloe from marauding centaurs and giant snakes, the plot has little action. Instead, the story follows the lovers as they stumble their way to their final HEA. The primary element that makes this a good read is the character of Chloe. Without her ferocity and aggressiveness, MacRieve's abominable behavior would have been just as off-putting as Lothaire's brutality in book 12.

     The book ends in a double cliffhanger involving the separate stories of Preston Webb and Munro. To read or listen to an excerpt from MacRieve, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio. One last point: This is my least favorite cover art in the whole series
what's with that single staring eye? Kinda creepy.

                          NOVEL 15:  Dark Skye                          
     The heroine of this novel is Melanthe (Lanthe), sister of Sabine, the heroine of Kiss of a Demon King. The sisters come from a high-ranking Sorceri family, but they have a tragic family history. When Lanthe was just nine years old, she made friends with Thronos Talos, a young Vrekener (demon angel) prince who claimed that she was his fated mate. The two had a four-month period of deep friendship that ended violently when Thronos’ father and his Vrekener knights attacked Lanthe’s home and beheaded her parents. When Lanthe saw Thronos at the scene of the bloody massacre, she assumed that he had betrayed her, so she used her persuasion power to make him jump from a high castle window to the ground without using his wings. That fall left Thronos badly wounded and deeply scarred, and he has never fully regained his ability to fly. In the centuries since that incident, Thronos has been trying to capture Lanthe, vowing to get revenge by stealing Lanthe's Sorceri powers and then forcing her to move to Skye and become the mother of his childrenwhether she wants to or not. In the Vrekener race, a man is fated to have only one mate, so if Thronos doesn't mate with Lanthe, he will never be able to have sex or offspring. The Sorceri don't have a one-mate rule, so Lanthe has no reason to allow the murderer of her parents to catch up with her. For hundreds of years, Lanthe and her sister have been constantly under attack by groups of Vrekener knights sent after them (they believe) by Thronos.

     Lanthe and Thronos are complete opposites, both reflecting their very different cultures. The Vrekeners are extremely conservative, living their lives according to a strict set of rules filled with lists of offendments—sins that include all of the fun things, like drinking, gambling, and carousing. The rules are so draconian that they forbid all nudity, even between husband and wife in the privacy of their bedroom. Lanthe and her people, on the other hand, are hedonists who take pleasure in the moment. They don’t follow any societal rules; they just enjoy every moment of their lives. Basically, their motto is eat, drink, be happy, and collect as much gold as you can. Obviously, even without the tragic childhood incident, a mating between Lanthe and Thronos would be filled with all kinds of difficulties. First and foremost among the obstacles is that the Vrekeners and the Sorceri are bitter enemies because the Vrekeners make it a practice to kidnap Sorceri and steal their powers. For a Sorceri to lose her powers is akin to losing her soul. Another interesting difference between the two lead characters is that Lanthe has had centuries of enthusiastic sexual experiences, while Thronos has remained a virgin—waiting for his mate. (Talk about frustration!!!) At times, the buttoned-down, judgmental Thronos appears to hate Lathe more for taking so many lovers than for crippling him. Thronos calls Lathe a harlot, and she calls him “Dudley Do-Right” and tells him that he kills joy wherever he finds it. The themes, of course, are that opposites attract and that what happens in the past needs to stay in the past.

     Just as in the previous few books, the story begins with the destruction of the experimental island lab. Both Lanthe and Thronos have been imprisoned there, but Thronos allowed himself to be captured because Nix told him that was how he would find Lanthe. During the explosion that frees all of the prisoners, Thronos captures Lanthe, and they begin their long and arduous journey to their eventual HEA. But before their love is declared and consummated, they must endure a series of dangerous adventures in several different realms, including Pandemonia (warlike realm of dragons and demons), Inferno (fiery underworld), Sargasoe (undersea world ruled by Nereus), and Feveris (realm of uncontrolled lust). As they work together to overcome their mutual enemies, Lathe and Thronos begin to thrash out their differences, correct a multitude of misunderstandings, and fall in love. Just when they believe that they are finally safe, Nix drops in with yet another cryptic message, and they find themselves—literally—in the belly of the beast.

     Although the author has created some inventive adventures for this loving couple, they really went on too long. After the third realm, I was looking at the huge number of pages yet to be read and wondering why in the world Cole filled this story with so many repetitious action scenes. Even though she changes up the creature types, the battles are all pretty much the same, and you always know that the hero and heroine will use their powers to get away. If you are a devoted reader of this series, then of course you need to read the book because it provides some more “Nix” clues about what is going to be happening in the next episode(s). I just wish that Cole had tightened up the story so that it didn’t drag along through so many similar ups and downs for the lead couple. To read or listen to an excerpt from Dark Skye, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

                          NOVEL 16:  Sweet Ruin                          
     An immortal assassin is caught between desire and duty in this sizzling new novel from Kresley Cole’s #1 New York Times bestselling Immortals After Dark series. 

A foundling raised in a world of humans...
     Growing up, orphaned Josephine didn’t know who or what she was—just that she was “bad,” an outcast with strange powers. Protecting her baby brother Thaddeus became her entire life. The day he was taken away began Jo’s transition from angry girl…to would-be superhero…to enchanting villain.

A lethally sensual enforcer on a mission...
     Whether by bow or in bed, archer Rune the Baneblood never fails to eliminate his target. In his sights: the oldest living Valkyrie. Yet before he can strike, he encounters a vampiric creature whose beauty mesmerizes him. With one bite, she pierces him with aching pleasure, stealing his forbidden blood—and jeopardizing the secrets of his brethren. 

A boundless passion that will lead to sweet ruin...
     Could this exquisite female be a spy sent by the very Valkyrie he hunts? Rune knows he must not trust Josephine, yet he’s unable to turn her away. When Jo betrays the identity of the one man she will die to protect, she and Rune become locked in a treacherous battle of wills that pits ultimate loyalty against unbridled lust. 

     Let me introduce you to the hero and heroine of Cole’s latest episode of IMMORTALS AFTER DARK: Rune Darklight (aka Rune the Insatiable, aka Baneblood) and Josephine Doe (aka Jo, aka Kierra). The novel begins as the Accession draws closer and closer. To review: the Accession is “a time…when all immortal beings in the Lore, from the Valkyries, vampire, Lykae, and demon factions to the witches, shifters, fey, and sirens..must fight and destroy each other.” Accessions occur every five hundred years, and this 500-year period is nearly at an end. Our old friend Nix the Ever-Knowing, the soothsaying Valkyrie, is working hard to prevent Accession bloodshed, and we see in this book that she has not changed her crazy, unpredictable ways of manipulating people to get exactly what she wants. 

     Rune is a seven-thousand-year-old dark fey Halfling (demon/fey) who was the bastard son of a fey king. When his father died, the king’s wife forced Rune into a life as a seductive assassin and as a sex whore. (The queen lived—actually, she died—to regret what she did to Rune.) Rune was rescued from his sex-slave existence by Orion, who leads the Møriør (aka Bringers of Doom), of which Rune is currently a member. Rune is their archer and carries a quiver of magically spelled arrows. Cole defines the Møriør as “an alliance of otherworldly beings led by Orion the Undoing.” Most of the Møriør are the primordial of their species—the firstborn, or oldest generation. Other Lore groups—specifically Nïx and her Vertas allies—view the Møriør as violent beasts who seek to destroy everything they touch. The Møriør have seized control of most planes of existence through their sheer brute strength and powerful magic. As the Accession nears, Orion and his group are finalizing their plans for their next conquest—Gaia (aka our Earth), and Nïx is at the top of their “to-kill” list. 

     This plot takes us even closer to the Accession as it introduces us to several members of the Møriør, all of whom are certainly going to be major players in future events, particularly Orion. Here are the members of the Møriør: 

     > Sian (aka Abyssian Infernas, prince of Pandemonia, aka prince of hells)
     > Allixta, the Overlady of Witches; She has a familiar named Curses—a magical panther
     > Blace, the oldest vampire
     > Darach Lyka, the first werewolf, who is now struggling to maintain his human form
     > Orion (aka the Undoing), a being of unknown descent who has the ability to alter his appearance and his scent. Rune believes that he is at least a demigod, perhaps a full deity.

     At this point in Rune’s life, he spends most of his time having sex with nymphs because they will always provide information in exchange for his famous sexual prowess. Rune keeps himself emotionally detached during his information-gathering assignations and lives with the fear that because he constantly represses his emotions, the day will come when he will no longer be able to feel any true emotions at all. Rune’s mixed-up heritage has given him poisonous black blood that will instantly kill anyone it touches, as will all of his bodily fluids, if you get my drift. So no kissing and no ejaculation for Rune—not ever, unless he wants the recipient to die. Because of his emotional repression and his poisonous blood, Rune is pretty sure that he will never have a mate, and he has resigned himself to his fate. 

     And now for the heroine: Josephine does not remember anything about the first eight years of her life. She knows only that she appeared on Earth one day carrying her baby brother in her arms. The two lived on the streets in small-town Texas until Jo pushed too hard at a gang leader and he shot her dead. But she didn’t die; she awoke in the morgue as a blood-drinking vampire who could teleport, become transparent, and walk in the sun. Jo left her brother, Thaddeus (Thad), with the local librarian, a woman who had befriended them and fed them without judgment and without calling in the social workers. 

     Currently, Jo is in New Orleans, where she roams the streets protecting prostitutes from harm and spending time in various “shells,” which is what she calls people she is able to passively possess and experience their actions and emotions for short periods of time. Jo is very tough and highly intelligent, but she is low on social skills and completely illiterate—no time for school in her hard, hard life. Ever since she can remember, she has had sporadic dreams about explosions, flashing lights, and stars, but she has no idea what these dreams mean. The fact that she can’t remember anything about her earliest years is a constant frustration for her. When she rises from the dead with a set of magical powers, she assumes that she is some kind of superhero—or perhaps a super villain. 

     Until Josie meets Rune, she has no idea that the Lore exists—that the world is filled with supernatural creatures. It’s quite a lot for her to take in, but Josie is tough and smart, so she absorbs everything that Rune tells her and stores it away until she figures out how to use it. Midway through the book, Josie has a major run-in with Nïx during which Nïx gives her some advice about developing her powers—powers that Josie didn’t even know that she had. The scene in which she first practices her telekinetic powers is quite entertaining (and very destructive). 

     And now for the first meeting of the soon-to-be-lovers: Early in the book, Orion commands Rune to kill Nïx, so the archer heads for New Orleans, where Jo happens to witness him pounding through a serial sex session with three or four nymphs. As soon as Rune sees this gorgeous, mysterious female, he wants to know who and what she is. He wants to bed her—right now. Jo, though, sees how callously Rune treats the nymphs and wants no part of this arrogant misogynist, no matter how utterly hot he is. Thus begins a bickering, up-and-down courtship that we know will eventually lead to their HEA

     The story is mostly about Rune and Jo’s relationship problems as he assumes that she is just like every other woman he has ever met in his seven thousand years of constant female adoration. But Jo wants more than a quickie; she wants an anchor…a mate…someone who pledges himself to her and only to her. Rune is obviously never going to be that man, so she tells him that they will never consummate their relationship until he vows that they will be exclusive—that he will stop bedding all those nymphs and be true to her. Oh yes, I almost forgot to tell you one very important thing about Jo: She is immune to Rune’s poisonous black blood. As you can imagine, Rune is pretty excited about this. After seventy long centuries of frustration, he can finally get it on (and off) without killing his partner. But no…it (at first) appears that Rune will never reach fulfillment with Jo because he will not agree to monogamy, so—in return—Jo won’t give in or put out. What a dilemma! 

     Of course, arrogant Rune thinks that he can change Jo's mind about his sexual life because he views his sexual exploits as part of his job with the Møriør—duties that he has pledged to carry out without fail. The two have lots of arguments about this throughout the book, and both gradually modify their views of each other and of themselves. Cole does an excellent job in developing these characters, so their eventual (inevitable) HEA is quite believable and very entertaining. What is best about the relationship is that, for the most part, Jo is the one in control even though Rune usually doesn’t realize this until well after the fact. Jo is Cole’s strongest, smartest, most delightfully captivating heroine ever. Jo will NEVER have a girly TSTL moment, and she is NEVER blindly submissive to anyone, not even to Rune (especially not to Rune). Cole takes her time with the couple’s burgeoning romance, creating a perfectly crafted relationship that includes lots of sly humor, natural-sounding dialogue, heartbreaking emotion, and passionate love-making. For me, this is the best book in the series so far.

     Sweet Ruin (which is Jo's nickname for Rune when he does something arrogant) is a terrific novel with a fast-paced, engrossing plot and a wonderful pair of lead lovers. Plus—terrific cover art! Don’t miss this one. To read or listen to an excerpt from Sweet Ruin, click HERE to go to the novel's page and click on the cover art for print or on the "Listen" icon for audio.

                    NOVEL 17: Shadow's Seduction                    
This novel slipped past me, so I'm just including its publisher's blurb here. If/when I have time, I will read it and add a review at a later date.

In this scorching IMMORTALS AFTER DARK/DACIAN novel, Kresley Cole brings together a wicked vampire prince used to getting everything he desires and a demon warrior who always felt like an outcast. 

          A night of debauchery . . . 
Prince Mirceo Daciano and his new friend, Caspion the Tracker, comb the streets of Dacia, drunkenly seeking out pleasures of the flesh. In what should have been a typical night, they coax a bevy of nymphs to bed. To impress their females, the demon and the vampire kiss on a dare. 

          Changes them forever . . .
Once they finally break away from their soul-searing kiss, they find themselves aloneand shaken. Had they imagined their explosive chemistry? Obstaclesranging from a death sentence to exile in a war-torn dimensionthreaten to destroy their lives . . . and the vulnerable promise in that one kiss.

          How long can they resist the fire that blazes between them?
Even if Mirceo accepts Caspion as his fated mate, the seductive vampire still must convince the stubborn demon that their bond is forever. And any royal Dacian union must receive the blessing of King Lothaire, an unpredictable and savage killer. 

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